Gideon Meir named ambassador to Italy

Gideon Meir, who has led the Foreign Ministry's information campaign since the intifada's beginning in September 2000, was appointed Thursday as Israel's ambassador to Italy. Meir, the deputy director-general for media and public affairs since 2000, will be replacing Ehud Gol. One of the candidates to replace Meir in one of the highest-profile positions at the ministry is Aviv Shir-On, the ambassador to Switzerland, who is finishing up his term there. Shir-On formerly served as the ministry's spokesman. Another leading candidate for the job is Yuval Rotem, a former consul-general to Los Angeles. Meir's appointment was announced after a meeting of the ministry's High Appointments committee that met Thursday for the second time in as many weeks. The committee announced five other ambassadorial appointments, as well as the head of Israel's delegation to Qatar and its consul-general in Boston. The ministry's appointment process had been on hold for a number of months, first because high-level appointments could not be made once Knesset elections were called late last year and then because the ministry wanted to see the results of a State Comptroller's Office report on the procedure. In addition to Meir, Ali Yihye was named ambassador to Greece. Yihye, the first Israeli Arab ambassador, served in this capacity in Helsinki from 1995 - 1999. The other ambassadorial appointments made Thursday were Ilan Elgar to Switzerland, Isaac Bachman to Guatemala, Yosef Livne to Mexico and Tsuriel Raphael to El Salvador. In addition, Roi Rosenblit will head up Israel's delegation in Qatar, and Nadav Tamir will be the consul-general in Boston. In the last two weeks Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has named 20 senior appointments, including 17 new ambassadors. None of these have been political appointments. The appointments now go to the Cabinet for final approval.